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Student Spotlight: Melissa Rudie ’17 and Steven Taylor ’17

Eager for a new challenge and seeking a learning adventure, Melissa Rudie ’17 and Steven Taylor ’17 ventured to Kauai, Hawaii for their third co-op, where they joined the hardworking team at the Makauwahi Cave Reserve. “Visitors come to Hawaii seeking paradise. But the truth is, these islands have become a kind of living hell for nature. The place is a microcosm of the world condition, where the role of humans in transforming nature stands out in high relief.” This quote, taken from the book titled “Back to the Future in the Caves of Kauai” by one of the cave reserve founders, David Burney, clarified for Steven and Melissa the true mission behind their co-op adventure. The Makauwahi Cave Reserve sits on 17 acres of land. The limestone cave, now turned shallow lake, is filled with an abundance of history, preserving “all types of artifacts: human, animal, plant, spores, pollen, and even wood in its oxygen deprived mud.” Thousands of years ago, the introduction of invasive species allowed for foreign plants to kill off the native species, eventually leading to endangerment and ultimately, extinction. The hopes of all those that work at the Makauwahi Cave Reserve is to restore the Cave and its surrounding landscape to its original beauty. Steven and Melissa took an active role in the restoration and conservation efforts. As interns, they wore many hats; days were spent accomplishing a wide variety of tasks, from giving tours educating visitors on the state of the beautiful nature around them, excavating, maintaining hiking trails, and removing invasive species to make room for the planting of native species in an effort to restore the land to its pre-human invasion state. Steven and Melissa were able to witness first hand how discovering things of the past can lead to saving the future. Great work, Steven and Melissa!

*Excerpts taken from Steven and Melissa’s blog assignments

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Beth Bridgeman is an associate professor of Cooperative Education.

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